A cover letter is the first thing your prospective Nigerian employer sees.
Most of the time, cover letter determines whether you are invited for an interview or not.
Irrespective of how enriched your Curriculum Vitae (CV) could be or how much it fits the Nigerian job, an employer might be turned off by your cover letter and decide not to proceed further with reading the CV at all.
But with a killer cover letter, you spike interest in your prospective employer and might even get the employer convinced you are the best for the job even when your CV is not yet reviewed.
Imagine your cover letter as a sales pitch. It is a truth that the most used brand of products is not always the best in the market, rather, the company behind it was able to convince consumers it is better than the rest.
As much as you may want to argue the fact, anybody who is employed for a position is usually not the best candidate, he/she was just more convincing. That is why you need to do everything to stand out; starting from your cover letter.
Importance of cover letter to Nigerian Employer
Have you ever wondered why employers in Nigerian companies request for a cover letter? Mainly, for an employer, a cover letter:
- Saves time in interviewing prospective employees. From their cover letter, they can be predicted.
- Helps to assess candidates’ enthusiasm. This comes in handy when many candidates fit the job requirement.
- Gives a peep into a Nigerian prospective employee’s personality.
- Is a tradition. To some employers, the cover letter is requested “because that is how other companies are doing it. In the end, such an employer will still invite all candidates for interview.
Five Things to Do Before Writing Your Cover Letter
To make things easier for you, think over these five things before penning your cover letter. Since your cover letter is about you, then there is a need for YOU to understand YOU better.
Read the job advert again: Before picking your pen, take a look at the job advert again and this time more carefully. What is the job description?
What are the required qualifications? Note something here, before checking the required qualification, always check the job description.
Sometimes, you may not have the required qualification but have the necessary experience to effectively execute the job description.
In such a case, checking first the job qualification may have discouraged you. Likewise, there are instances you may have the required qualification but deep down, you know handling the job description would be tedious for you.
Note the tone of writing: This is also very important especially if the job advert is posted by a small company unlike bigger companies with a template for their job adverts.
If a startup CEO should post an advert for his company, probably on WhatsApp or social media (as it is in most of the case in Nigeria), you can deduce the kind of employee he/she is looking for by noting the tone of writing.
Check and tick the required job qualification(s): Compare your qualification against the required. Of course, it is unlikely for you to apply for a job you don’t have any of the required qualifications, but it is possible to lack one of the required qualifications. Sometimes the qualification might be elective.
If you don’t have them all, think of how you can convince the employer that even though you do not have the stated qualification, you are capable of efficiently handling the task.
Research the company: This is something usually recommended for people going for a job interview in Nigeria. And that is a mistake. Your interview starts with your cover letter.
It will answer in absentia, all your prospective employer’s initial questions of “is this person capable?”, “Does he/she fits our organizational purpose?”.
Do your self a favour by researching the company. This will allow you to tailor your cover letter both to the job description and the company’s goal.
Why should you be hired for the job?
Well, you may be asked this during a live interview, but just as previously stated, your interview starts in your cover letter.
Think over this question and when you get an answer, get a pen. It is time to start writing.
What Nigerian Companies are looking for in a cover letter?
- Candidates Address and other contact information, & Greeting
A Nigerian employer wants to see your contact information. This affirms your authenticity and also a means of reaching out in case the employer is interested in your competence. Employers are hardly interested in qualification nowadays.
And of course! Where is your courtesy? Dear Sir, or the most suitable salutation can be written under seconds.
A Nigerian employer may have more than one job opening, that is why it is required to state your job role.
Many job seekers in Nigeria play themselves out in the segment as they have a prepared template for all job adverts.
That is wrong. Always state the specific role you are applying for and if possible, include how you heard about it.
Highlight of your competence
After reading the first two or three paragraphs which must have covered the first two points mentioned above, the next question on any employers or recruiters mind is, “can you do it?”.
Briefly mention your qualification and probably awards in case you have some that can serve as a back up for a required qualification you don’t have. Do not exhaust many words tackling this since your CV is there to show them more.
Why you should be hired
Remember a cover letter is a job seeker’s sale pitch, after telling an employer how you studied in the best university in Nigeria and how you were the best graduating student in your school, what comes to mind is, “Fine, but why should we hire you?”
Show them what they will be missing if they did not hire you. You are selling yourself. It is allowed to be persuasive, but don’t overdo it.
Types of Cover Letter
There are majorly four types of cover letters you may be required to write.
1. Application Cover Letter
This is the type of cover letter many Nigerian job seekers are conversant with. If you are new to the job market, the samples you may have seen would be this kind of cover letter.
It is written to suit the open position in the company. Call it a supplement to you Curriculum Vitae (CV), like an introduction to a book about you. Remember your favourite book hun?! Yes, there is always an introduction then the real content of the book (imagine that one to be your CV itself).
2. Prospecting Cover Letter
Although written like an “Application Cover Letter”, the prospecting cover letter is written by a job seeker to his/her desired company.
It is important to note here that, the said company did not make an advert for the need of an employee. Instead, the job seeker is doing what Nigerians call “shooting your shot” ― trying his/her luck.
This cover letter is mostly written by undergraduates seeking for an internship in a company.
An internship like this are usually non-paid but reimbursed with an experience that gives such undergrad an edge in the future.
3. Networking Cover Letter
Networking Cover Letter is a modified “Prospecting Cover Letter” in the sense that it is written like the prospecting cover letter but sent to friends, high school mates, or relatives.
This is a common practice in Nigeria but in an informal way. Many graduates in Nigeria usually submit their CV to a family member and friend to widen their search nest, according to Lanre News.
If you are thinking of making it formal like sending to a network contact far away, then Networking Cover Letter comes to mind.
4. The “Non-Cover Letter” Cover Letter
This is called “Non-Cover Letter” for a reason. The company does not request for such but the applicant who thinks it could give him/her an edge would file it along with the CV.
It has to be as concise as possible.
Things not to include in your cover letter
You can as well refer this section as Nigeria cover letter mistakes to avoid.
Greetings: Phrases like “How are you?”; “Hope you are doing well?” are not meant for a formal letter and in this case a cover letter.
You may ask that when you are being interviewed, probably to showcase how relaxed you are, which is cool.
Wrong company name: This mistake is common with Nigerian job seekers who have a single cover letter for all jobs. It is very probable to send a cover letter with another company’s name. Always double-check.
Wrong job position: This error is also common with the group of job seekers with a single cover letter for all job posts.
Spelling or grammatical errors: No matter how much we may try to argue this, many professionals in Nigeria gauge intelligence with English language proficiency.
Don’t play yourself out. Ensure your cover letter does not contain any grammatical or spelling error.
Especially if you are typing directly via Email.
Abbreviation: Cover letter is formal letter. Avoid the use of abbreviations. Words like “don’t”, “haven’t”, “Am” should be omitted. Instead use, “do not”; “have not”; and “I am” s appropriate.
Desperation: Let the employer know you are interested in the job but never desperate.
The use of phrases like “I can’t wait to hear from you”, “I can see myself resuming the job already” should be avoided.
Instead of closing your cover letter with this kind of remarks, use remarks like “I look forward to your response.”
Weakness: Avoid including your incompetence such as stating the qualification you don’t have. Play your trump cards instead.